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Dawgs Academy are Champs again

Sunday April 19, 2015

Jonathan Hodgson

The Okotoks Dawgs Academy recently had a week to remember down south and added another major title to their resume, punctuated by a victory over a heated rival.

The Dawgs Academy flew to Las Vegas to compete in the Bishop Gorman Desert Classic held at the College of Southern Nevada, with several top youth programs from across the United States, in addition to two Alberta based programs, the Dawgs and Vauxhall Academy.

The Dawgs opened the tournament with a hard fought 2-1 victory over the squad from Carson, Nevada. Outstanding pitching performances turned in by Nick Vickers (Calgary, AB) and Nik Cardinal (Bonnyville, AB) carried the Dawgs to victory in the opener.

Vickers, who has accepted a scholarship to attend Northeastern Junior College 'NJC' (NJCAA) in Colorado this fall, worked a strong 4.2 innings, allowing just one unearned run on two hits and three walks, while recording six strikeouts. Cardinal, who has verbally committed to Mesa Community College (NJCAA) worked the final 2.1 innings scoreless on one hit with three strikeouts.

Offensively, Brett Esau (Meadow Lake, SK) drove in both runs. He, along with Garrett Kirkwood (Sudbury, ON) and Canadian Junior National Team infielder Peter Hutzal (Calgary, AB) had two hits apiece, as the Dawgs stroked nine hits as a team. Twin brothers Garrett and Drake Kirkwood are both committed to Spalding University (NCAA Div. 3) for this fall.

The second game of the weekend saw the Dawgs take a commanding victory over the host Bishop Gorman JV squad by a final score of 10-3. The Dawgs found the scoreboard early and often in this game, building a 5-1 lead after three innings, and proceeding to score at least a run in all seven innings.

Garrett Kirkwood hit in the leadoff spot and delivered four of the team’s 14 hits, while scoring four runs as well. Hutzal had another two-hit day, while J.T. Patterson (Calgary, AB), another NJC commit, and Justin King (Okotoks, AB), who has verbally committed to Northern Kentucky University (NCAA Div. 1) both had multi-hit performances, each collecting one RBI.

It was a staff effort on the mound, with Zach Demchenko (Saskatoon, SK) taking the start and going three innings allowing one unearned run and two hits, followed by Ben Thompson (Auckland, NZ) and Quintin Kopjar (Rowley, AB) pitching well in two innings each to seal the win.

On the third day of the tournament, the Dawgs squared off with Menlo, California with a berth in the championship game on the line. It was a competitive matchup but the Dawgs were able to get out to a quick 3-1 lead and held off their Californian counterparts by a final count of 5-3.

The Dawgs five runs were scored on eight hits, including two hits and a run driven in by each of Drake Kirkwood and Hutzal, who had his third consecutive multi-hit game. Chase Dreger (Oakbluff, MB; Colby CC commit) took the start and allowed three runs on five hits over four innings before giving way to Patterson, who delivered three shutout innings in his first pitching appearance of the weekend.

The championship game of the Bishop Gorman Desert Classic featured two Canadian squads with the Dawgs Academy squaring off against the Vauxhall Academy in what turned out to be a slugfest.

The Dawgs sprinted off the starting line, quickly building a commanding 9-0 lead with four runs in the first inning and five more in the second. Vauxhall’s bats came to life scoring six runs in innings four through six, but the Dawgs fended them off, scoring two runs in the fifth and sixth. A big five-run seventh inning provided the exclamation mark to an 18-8 win over their provincial rivals to claim the title.

Hutzal, Esau and Patterson racked up three RBI’s each in the win, while Drake Kirkwood, Patterson, and Cole McLaren (Morell, PEI; Colby CC commit) each tallied three of the Dawgs 18 hits in the game.

The third Northeastern JC commit on the squad, Graeme Cherry (Millarville, AB) was the starting pitcher going four innings and was relieved by Kopjar and Marshal Burgess (Brandon, MB), a commit of the University of Jamestown (NAIA), who came on to record the tournament clinching out.

Garrett Kirkwood was the Dawgs leading hitter in the tournament, batting .444 (8 for 18) while Brett Esau led the team with six RBI’s. Team Canada infielder Peter Huztal contributed four RBI’s.

Congratulations to the players of the Dawgs Academy on winning the Bishop Gorman Desert Classic, and turning in a fine representation of Dawgs baseball!

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